Abby needs the facts on adoptees’ rights

To the editor:

In her column dated April 30, 2013, Dear Abby made the following statement: “It is natural for children to want to know who their biological parents are; that’s the reason adoption records are no longer sealed.” I wrote to her on May 6, asking her to print a correction. I have not seen a correction. The following is what I wrote to Abby with verifiable facts so the truth may be known to her readers:

“Denied access to Original Birth Certificates (OBCs), millions of adult adoptees nationwide are denied knowledge of ancestral origins and family physical and mental health medical histories. A significant number die prematurely; others live undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for physical and mental illnesses. The United Nations has cited the United States, among other nations, for human rights violations in this regard.

“The American Adoption Congress compilation of birth record access state by state, dated 2010, cites these facts:

“-Alaska and Kansas are the only states that never had closed records and adoptees have direct access to OBCs.

“-Alabama, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island (2012) allow adult adoptees access to OBCs.

“-Massachusetts allows access to adult adoptees born before July 17, 1974, but prohibits access to adult adoptees born after July 17, 1974.

“-Tennessee allows adult adoptees access to OBCs unless the birth parent was the victim of incest or rape and does not consent to disclosure.

“-The remaining 43 states do not allow adult adoptees access to their OBCs.

“There is a great struggle taking place in the USA to legislate adoptee rights reform bills in each state so that these citizens can enjoy the same birthrights as every other American. There is a need to address (your error) for the sake of the untold numbers effected by having read it. Consider the many thousands of birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents … working for years to effect change … and continuing the struggle for adoptee equality. Few know the suffering that was created when states began sealing birth records and issuing falsified documents in the 1930s, or of the birth mothers who were often institutionalized in “homes for unwed mothers,” where they were reviled as unfit and coerced into signing documents relinquishing their parental rights without ever having met with a lawyer and without ever being counseled about post-adoption grief. In their vulnerable and grieving state, they were told to forget their babies, keep it a secret and get on with their lives. No mother forgets her baby. Birth mothers never received a copy of the official Relinquishment of Parental Rights, to which they were entitled by law. I hope we will see this letter published. Your readers trust you and deserve the truth.”

Virginia Slater

Reunited birth mother

Member, New York Statewide Adoption Reform’s Unsealed Initiative, a grassroots lobby organization fighting for the right of adoptees 18 and older to non-certified copies of their original birth certificates

Saranac Lake